Stormzy, AJ Tracey, JME, Akala, Novelist.
Not the feature list for Pow 2019 – although it would be quite a line-up. Those are just a few of the grime artists who, ahead of the last general election, came out in support of Jeremy Corbyn.
They sent tweets urging their fans to vote for the Labour leader and some later performed at events run by the campaign group Grime 4 Corbyn.
But head to Grime4Corbyn.com in 2019 and you’ll find that there’s no website under that address. And you can count the group’s social media posts from this year on one hand.
It’s hard to say what effect the support of grime MCs had in 2017, but some credit them with getting more young people engaged with politics. Although there are doubts over whether or not there actually was a higher voter turnout among young people.
Now, two years later we’re facing another election – but with seemingly a lot less noise coming from MCs on social media.
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‘We can’t dictate the trends’
Back in 2017, support for the Labour leader seemed organic.
The Grime 4 Corbyn group was set up after tweets like that. But we’ve been given conflicting information about whether they’ll be involved in this election.
UK Grime, which helped put on the Grime 4 Corbyn events in 2017, said yesterday it’s looking for venues for a new event but admitted Grime 4 Corbyn has “fizzled out”.
“We’re bringing it back,” says Nathan Sealey from UK Grime.
“People are still interested in grime, and people are still interested in engaging with politics. It’s up to us to put the work in and create that buzz again this time around.”
But last week we were told Grime 4 Corbyn was stepping aside for a separate group that formed earlier this year when Boris Johnson became prime minister.
“What young people are talking about now is different,” Adam Cooper, from Grime 4 Corbyn, told Radio 1 Newsbeat.
“Part of it is about what’s new. Jeremy Corbyn was new. Boris Johnson is new – and a particularly unlikable character.”
The female-led FCK Boris group held a “street festival” protest outside Downing Street on Boris Johnson’s first day in charge
They’ve since been helping people around the UK put on DIY parties with the aim of getting young people to register to vote – preferably against the Tories. Their next big event takes place in Boris Johnson’s own constituency of Uxbridge.
FCK Boris retains the grime connection though – with the name coming from a Stormzy song and the likes of Big Zuu performing at their events.
But does it say something that some of the focus is now anti-Johnson rather than pro-Corbyn?
Not according to Adam.
“We can’t dictate to young people what the cultural trends should be. We work with where people are at – what young people and artists are talking about – and build on that,” he says.
‘Let someone else have a go’
Lethal Bizzle’s never shied away from getting involved in politics – famously labelling David Cameron a “donut” way back in 2006.
And he was one of the few grime MCs who voiced concerns about Jeremy Corbyn in 2017.
Bizzle said he was backing Labour and that Jeremy Corbyn was “cool”, but told Fubar Radio he wasn’t sure Corbyn was the “man to take the party forward”.
He’s still urging his fans to vote Labour this time around, but doesn’t seem sold on Corbyn – calling on the Islington North MP to make way for somebody else earlier this year.
There have been a few other signs grime artists aren’t too pleased with the way things have unfolded post-2017.
Skepta claimed that MCs had been “used” – saying that after the election politicians stopped paying attention to grime artists and the communities they come from.
AJ Tracey, who was in the official Labour campaign video in 2017, told the Observer last month that if he was to vote for anyone now it would be the Green Party.
“Corbyn is a great guy and his morals are in the right place but I don’t think he’s strong enough to be our leader.”
Politicians trying to align themselves with what’s cool to gain some support is nothing new, according to journalist Kieran Yates.
“Whether it’s Gordon Brown saying that he listens to the Arctic Monkeys or Jeremy Paxman inviting Dizzee Rascal on Newsnight, this has always happened,” she says.
“I remember the Tory party trying to get Nu Brand Flexx at the time to do a Conservative election track… so I think Corbyn actually was just doing what other politicians have always done but slightly more effectively.”
Kieran thinks that reaching out to grime artists and their young fans could be considered doing the “bare minimum”, but that it wasn’t just a token effort from Corbyn.
“He is talking about Grenfell. He is talking about the ethnic pay gap, he is talking about the environment – about things that young people and young grime artists find really engaging and important.”
‘We’re still here’
Yizzy got involved with Grime 4 Corbyn in 2017 because the Labour leader “was the first politician I felt was for the people”, he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.
And the MC is still certain that Jeremy Corbyn is the only person who’ll stand up for people in areas like Lewisham, Bow, Moss Side and Toxteth – the kind of places where grime traditionally comes from.
“Grime and most of the grime MCs are coming from council estates. They’re coming from flats. They’re coming from single-parent households and single incomes, working class backgrounds, blue collar jobs. That is what grime is as a background.
“So to find a person that can represent us to the fullest and tries his very best to implement some changes – we’re still here, grime is still here. We’ve not left,” he says.
The MC accepts that Corbyn seems to have lost some momentum from 2017 when he was the “big cheese”, but puts that down to “Brexit taking over everyone’s screens and everyone’s minds”.
“It’s a little difficult to focus on an individual person… and obviously it’s very easy to focus on someone you dislike rather than someone you’re in favour of.”
But he says the “feeling is still the same for Jeremy Corbyn”.
“We don’t necessarily need to tweet and start another wave of Grime 4 Corbyn – because grime is still for Corbyn.”